(Photo by Ryan McVay / Getty Images)
Garfield Senior High School

The Truth Hurts: Is a college degree worth the cost?

Should attending a four-year college be the aim of every high school senior in the world? Answers vary of course, but it all revolves around the cultural pressure to head straight to college after high school and centers on enrolling in a four-year institution. It’s due to the weight that such institutions carry in the minds of Americans.

The cost of tuition for a four-year college has skyrocketed in recent years and continues to grow faster than the general inflation of the economy according to a recent study by Junior Achievement and Citizens Bank. In other words, many families aren’t able to afford the overall cost of attending college, yet students are still enrolling because it seems like the most reasonable option. Therefore, families are extracting an enormous amount of loans from the government, amounting to an inordinate amount of debt across the country.

While the cost of tuition is rising, proponents claim that college is a good investment. For instance, a recent study by PayScale.com found that “there are only 72 schools (out of 2,700 four-year schools in America) at which earning a degree can get you a $1 million return on investment over high school grads.”

However, this study might have been true 12 years ago when it was released in a report by the US Census Bureau, but now students are considering, more than ever, if college is actually a good investment. After all, due to the mountains of debt many students are faced with upon graduation, many end up acquiring a job that doesn’t require their college degree, simply to pay off the costs of acquiring that degree!

At a time when college costs were significantly lower, it would have been easier to claim college was a reasonable investment.  

But recent grads (ages 20-24) have an unemployment rate that is now at 7.8 percent which is higher than the national unemployment rate and approximately three times higher than it was 20 years ago. It’s discomforting to think that, at the cost of trying to move up on the wealth ladder, two-thirds of college students are giving up much more than what they signed up for.

While on the surface college seems like a wonderful intellectual endeavor, it’s certainly not for everyone. For the most part, people attend a four-year institutions with two objectives — to sharpen their minds with knowledge and increase their earning potential. Overall, for those who do intend on pursuing higher education, they should really consider the colleges that cost less, or provide the most financial aid. Because, it goes without saying that the debt accumulated from college has the power to trail us for years on afterward. In the end, college is something that every senior should consider, but so are its onerous costs.